NESTLÉ has come under fire for severing ties between KitKat and the Fairtrade Foundation.

For ten years, Nestlé UK has been buying Fairtrade cocoa to make more than a billion KitKat bars in York but is ending those links from October.

A petition launched by Joanne Pollard, from Barlow, Selby, to keep KitKat Fairtrade has topped 250,000 signatures, including celebrity support such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, footballer Neville Southall, and actress Thandi Newton.

Joanna, Fairtrade Yorkshire co-ordinator, said Nestle’s decision would cause a drop of £1.95m in annual Fairtrade Premium income for 27,000 smallholder farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, Fiji and Malawi.

“The Coronavirus crisis is pushing many cocoa and sugar farmers to the edge, making the security and flexibility Fairtrade offers more important than ever. That’s why it’s so upsetting Nestle are choosing this moment to stop using Fairtrade cocoa and sugar in KitKat.

"Please Nestlé, listen to those farmers telling you to stick with Fairtrade and do our community proud. Companies like yours can choose to support farmers to get through this crisis and invest in their families’ future. You can choose to be part of the answer to the extreme poverty and global inequality that cocoa growing communities live with every day.”

Responding to Nestlé's decision, the Ivorian Fair Trade Network published an open letter, calling for Nestle to keep KitKats Fairtrade, saying it allowed them 'to participate in the development of our communities independently'. "A non-Fairtrade trade relationship means regression and continued poverty.”

Nestlé says it will instead partner with the Rainforest Alliance and its combined spending on premiums and investment in community projects and 'a Living Income Pilot' in the 2020-21 season will top what it would have paid in Fairtrade premiums.

Cheryl Allen, Head of Insight, Sustainability and Nutrition, Health and Wellness for Nestlé Confectionery, said of their 10,000 cocoa farmer suppliers, 4,500 have only Fairtrade certification; the rest have dual Fairtrade/Rainforest Alliance certification.

"Nestlé has committed to paying for all of these farmers to also become certified with Rainforest Alliance if they wish."

She said they would be paying the Rainforest Alliance premium of $180 per tonne, of which $60 is guaranteed to go to the farmer. "The rest goes to the cooperatives and to pay for farmer training and other measures. The Fairtrade premium goes directly to the cooperatives so we cannot say what proportion goes straight to farmers."

The company says it is 'aware that the move will have an impact on some farmers, and we are working hard to mitigate this'.

“We are investing in initiatives to help farmers and our cocoa growing communities over the next two years to overcome some of the long-term systematic problems that farmers face. This includes £1m to develop a living income pilot and a further £500,000 for community projects.

“The pilot is all about closing the gap on living income. It works by agreeing targets or commitments in advance with farmers and co-operatives for good agricultural practices, reforestation, child labour and alternative incomes.

"Direct cash payments are made to farmers for achieving them. What it means in practice is that not only do farmers have the opportunity to boost their income, they will be benefitting their farms, their families and the local environment in doing so."

She added: “As part of our responsible sourcing journey for KitKat, we are now sourcing almost all our Nestlé UK & Ireland sugar from UK sugar producers. This is line with our continued focus on increasing local agricultural sourcing where possible.”